Google Chromebook: 3 months in

The Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook surprised me when I discovered how well it worked for me three months ago. The real test of a gadget is the big picture so here's my take after three months of use.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

When I bought the Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook three months ago I was surprised how well it fit into my work routine. I was not sure how well Chrome OS would work for me but it did right out of the box. Now that I've been using it heavily for 90 days I can better share my experience with the Chromebook.

See also: Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook: All in after a week | 11 good Chrome web apps for the Chromebook

I can't state strongly enough how great it is that the Chrome OS stays totally out of my way when I work.

Let me start by making it clear that Chromebooks and Chrome OS are not for everyone. Those who use special Windows or Mac programs for their work should give the Chromebook a pass. Chrome OS is in essence an extended implementation of the Chrome browser and that's it.

I spend all of my work day online, and specifically in the Chrome browser no matter what system I use. The Chromebook is thus a perfect fit for me and my work routine is why it works so well. The Chrome browser and collection of web apps I use handle everything I need so the Chromebook is a good solution for me. This is even more apparent after 90 days using the Chromebook as my main daily work system.

Getting more attention

The Chromebook gets a lot of attention when I use it in public, more so than any other gadget I use. Google has been running a big TV ad campaign for the Chromebook and it has definitely brought the gadget to the attention of the public. I am regularly approached when using the Chromebook by those who have never seen one in use and field lots of questions about it.

These folks are impressed when they see the performance of the Chromebook. This still impresses me too as there is no lag when I use it. Everything happens immediately, more so than the MacBook I have been using for years.

The big concern that people express about the Chromebook is fueled by the belief that you must be online to use it. When asked about this I first ask them when was the last time they used their laptop with no web connection? They invariably admit they can't remember. I then point out that during those rare instances when there is no connection I can still create writing documents in Google Drive.

Right now I happen to be working underground in the downtown Houston tunnel system while waiting for an appointment. There is no Wi-Fi available and to my surprise I have no Verizon 3G or LTE signal down here. My Chromebook is offline but I am still able to work.

I simply opened Google Drive and created a new writing document. I am working the same as I would online. When the Chromebook is connected to the web my document will by synced with the Google Drive cloud with no effort on my part. I'll then copy and paste the article into the ZDNet online editor with no fuss.

How's the hardware?

Three months with the Chromebook has cemented my satisfaction with the Samsung Series 5 550 hardware. The battery lasts all day no matter how hard I push it. I never have to be concerned or pay attention to the remaining battery life when I am away from an outlet.

The keyboard on this Chromebook is fantastic and I can easily write thousands of words a day. This is a major requirement of mine as a writer and it gets a big thumbs up.

As impressed as I was with the trackpad on this Chromebook when I first got it, I like it even more today. It is better than any trackpad I have used on any Windows laptop and just as good as the gold standard of trackpads, those on MacBooks.

Since the Chromebook is at its core a cloud-based system, the limited storage has not been an issue for me. The few times I wanted to copy some photos and MP3s to the internal storage I plugged in an SD card and copied them over. I haven't used a USB flash drive as I haven't needed to but could if I wanted.

Chrome OS -- hassle-free

The more I use Chrome OS the happier I am with how it stays totally out of my way every day. I open the lid and the Chromebook is connected to the web and ready to go in 1 or 2 seconds. The rare times I restart the Chromebook it only takes 8 - 10 seconds which includes automatically firing up the Chrome browser with my 5 startup web sites fully loaded.

I can't state strongly enough how great it is that the OS stays in the background when I work. The Chrome browser is front and center, including the web apps and extensions that make my life easier. I never, ever worry about updates and the system has never crashed the entire time I've owned the Chromebook.

Google keeps the system and all apps up to date quietly in the background so I am always running the latest and greatest with no effort. When a major system update occurs it is downloaded in the background; I only know it's happened when a little up-arrow icon appears in the system tray indicating a restart is necessary to implement the new version. I don't have to interrupt my work for this I can do it whenever I want. The system keeps working fine until I do.

To finish the update I just hit the power button and the system cleanly shuts down in seconds. Hit the button again and the 10 second cold boot happens and I am up and running and the hardware, OS, and all apps are up to date.

Once again, it's not for everybody

The purpose of this article is to answer all of the questions I get asked daily about how the Chromebook is holding up for me. A Chromebook is not for everybody and I am not suggesting it is. But, if you spend most of your time in a web browser you may be surprised how well a Chromebook may work for you.

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